In an ideal world, parents would be able to settle custody matters amicably. This, unfortunately, does not always happen. If you and your co-parent cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, the judge in your case will have to decide which visitation schedule would best serve your child, including whether your child will be able to stay at your house overnight.
To decide what will be in the best interest of your child as far as overnight visitation goes, the judge will consider many factors, including the five general ones below. To strengthen your personal case for overnight visitation, consider whether you may have any areas you need to address that fall under any of those crucial categories.
Bonding and Relationship
The judge in your case will consider the type of relationship and bond you have with your child. It is not uncommon for children to have a stronger bond with one parent or the other due to the way the child was raised or which parent took primary care of the child. It is generally agreed-upon that children do best when bonded to both parents in most circumstances, so the judge will want to know how the child is bonded and how best to encourage further bonding or new bonding.
Ease of Adjustment
What the court wants to see in terms of adjustment is how well your child is handling living in two homes. Did, for example, your child adjust well to the visitation schedule established after you and your co-parent split, or did they struggle? How far is the distance between you and your co-parent’s homes, and are your children handling the travel well? Is the child continuing to do well at school while in both parents’ care or are they not getting to school on time when at one home versus the other?
Level of Safety
Naturally, the safety factor is significant when a judge is considering overnight visitation for a child. They will be concerned about any safety issues that could impact those visits, including those outlined below.
- Domestic violence
- Inadequate shelter
- Presence of dangerous or harmful people in your home
- A mental health issue that impacts your ability to provide care
- Any form of violence or abuse in your relationships
- Substance abuse issues
- Present restraining orders against you
- Any past or present verified abuse or neglect reports
- Any other issue that can impact your ability to provide care
If any of these concerns impact you, they will have to be addressed for you to receive overnight visitation. Be sure to discuss any safety issues you may have with your attorney in a truthful manner so they can plan the best way forward in your case. Do not attempt to hide any possible safety concerns from the court. If they find out, this will seriously harm your ability to see your child. It is better to address any potential issues up front rather than hide them.
An Established Trust
Your judge will want to see that you have been truly involved with your parenting responsibilities so that you can be trusted as a parent. For example, they will want to know if you have been involved with the overnight care of your child in the past and if you have regularly met your child’s daily needs and fulfilled your caregiver responsibilities. If you haven’t, you may want to consider taking a parenting class.
The Home Environment
Of course, your home environment will impact your chances of overnight visits. The judge will want to confirm your home is free of hazards, domestic violence and unsafe people, and that you have an area set up for your child overnight. If your child is older, the court may also be concerned about whether you can provide the child with privacy in your home.
Overall, the judge must view you as an involved, safe, committed and dependable parent if you want to receive overnight visits with your child. Work with a child custody in Santa Fe attorney to help you demonstrate these qualities to the court and to help you identify where improvements may be needed.